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The Marin Academy High School varsity baseball team warms up before their game against Drew High...

After more than three hours of public comment and presentations — and one near-scuffle, the San Rafael City Council put off voting on a plan to bring professional baseball to Albert Park.

The council opted to delay weighing in on the proposal from Centerfield Partnership to start a new North American League team in San Rafael shortly after midnight, citing the late hour and still unanswered questions.

"In light of the hour, I don't think it would be very prudent to continue," Mayor Al Boro said. Boro noted that he and Councilman Damon Connolly would work as a sub-committee with city employees to bring the issue back in two to four weeks.

"What I'd really like to see happen is to see Centerfield Partnership meet with some of the neighbors" before that meeting, Councilman Greg Brockbank added.

During the at-times tense meeting, audience members cheered, hissed and booed during employee and applicant presentations and public comment. Two men on opposite sides of the issue appeared to be on the verge of a fist fight at one point, with one exclaiming "Let's go" and then alerting police officers in the building lobby about the "knucklehead" inside.

However, everything ended peacefully, and most of the approximately 300 people who packed the chambers and a seating area in the building's lobby listened and spoke calmly despite the crowd.

Under the proposal, Centerfield Partnership would lease the lighted baseball diamond,

which dates to the 1950s, from the city on a non-exclusive basis. It would also spruce up the 700-seat grandstand structure, add temporary seating for up to 800 more fans, upgrade the bathrooms and locker rooms and put in modern netting behind home plate, among other improvements. Centerfield plans to apply for a liquor license but wouldn't serve beer and wine after the seventh inning in accordance with major- and minor-league protocol, company officials have said. It would provide security and cleanup services as well as paid parking for about 700 cars in the San Rafael Corporate Center's Seagate lot.

The team's approximately 45 home games would take place between late May and mid-September, with games starting at 7:15 p.m. on week nights and Saturdays, at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and at 1:05 p.m. on Sundays. The city expects to pull in between $4,000 to $12,000 a year in net revenue from the agreement, which covers a three-year period.

The plan hasn't sat well with everyone, and some neighbors have hired an attorney over concerns about traffic, parking, lighting, noise, alcohol consumption and general rowdiness. Opponents also expressed concerns Monday night that the city would actually lose money on the proposition.

"My concern is how much the city, who just asked their employees to take a cut in pay, is committing themselves," said Ray Moritz, who owns a forestry business on Willow Street near Albert Field . "It seems like the city's not getting a really good deal here."

Dotty LeMieux, an attorney representing some opponents, said she was worried that Centerfield was only looking to turn a profit.

"This is not a San Rafael team," LeMieux said. "These players don't live in San Rafael. This business is not a San Rafael business. San Rafael's not getting anything from this."

Meanwhile, resident Alezz Laielen said she wanted the city to look into potential negative effects the public address system and other baseball noise might have on residents' hearing and health.

"I can certainly feel sometimes the percussions from the farmers market," Laielen said. "Even people that aren't even aware of chronic noise, it damages their immune system. It's causing heart attacks."

But resident Barry Taranto suggested opponents were thinking of minor league baseball in exaggerated terms.

"We're not talking about Barry Bonds playing in every game, and we're not talking about rock concerts," Taranto said.

Resident Mike Lewis, another supporter, called the proposal a "fantastic opportunity for the city of San Rafael and the local downtown community to have a ballpark.

"Anything you can do to help out our downtown is fantastic," he said.

Eric Ahern, a 12-year-old Hall Middle School student dressed as a box of popcorn, stayed at the meeting until almost midnight with a group of friends in peanut, cracker jacks and hot dog costumes.

"Putting a minor league baseball team in Marin is putting smiles and joy on kids' faces and giving them something to do," Eric said. "The location is ideal and practical because kids can either bike or"...walk."